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Solar Power

Installing Solar Power At Home

Solar power is fast becoming more and more common in properties all over New Zealand, with tens of thousands of homes enjoying the benefits of solar.

As electricians dedicated to helping Wellington homes and businesses move to more eco-friendly and energy efficient options, we’re thrilled to see so many Kiwis choosing this environmentally friendly power source.

If you’re considering installing solar power on your property, it’s a good idea to understand the basics of what’s involved.

How Does Solar Power Work?

Every second of every day, the sun emits huge amounts of solar energy. In fact, if we could harness every bit of energy the sun produces for just one hour, it would be enough to power the entire planet for a whole year.

However at the moment, humans are only capturing a tiny fraction (approximately 1/10,000th) of that energy. Even so, solar power is making fantastic improvements to our energy sources.

To capture it, we use solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which absorb the light and convert it into direct current (DC). Next, the DC flows into an inverter in the system, which converts it to alternating current (AC), which is what is used within the home.

It’s also important to mention that very few homes run entirely on solar power. They are still connected to the main electrical grid, which means you can draw on traditional energy when solar doesn’t provide enough, and it also means if your panels produce more than you need, you can sell it into the grid.

The Components Of Solar Power

There are three main components when it comes to a standard solar power set-up in the home.

The first and most obvious are the panels. The size, number, and placement of the panels depends entirely on the home or commercial building and your power needs, but they are generally placed on the roof facing north to capture the most sunlight possible.

An inverter is also an important part of any solar power system. This device converts the DC captured by the panels into AC, which can be used by the property.

Finally, it is possible (but not necessary) to include a battery in your set-up. Without a battery, power must either be used immediately, or in the case your solar energy system generates more power than your home consumes, that excess power will be sold to the energy provider and you will receive a credit on your monthly power bill. You’d be surprised at how often this occurs too.

With a battery, you can store power for later use such as in the case of a power outage, when the sun’s UV rays cannot be utilised (such as night-time or overcast days), or sell the excess power back to the grid. The main reason for customers adding a battery system to their solar panels is the remarkable resilience it provides from power cuts during extreme weather events.

However, battery installation costs are still relatively high and are not particularly common in New Zealand homes. The upside of this is that they are getting more cost efficient and quality increases each year so there are better products on the market now then there were a few years ago and the trend looks to keep going.

Power Assessments For Homes And Businesses

Before getting solar power installed, you will need to have a building energy assessment for your property.

The purpose of an assessment is to determine a few key points:

  • What exactly is your objective, what you wish to power with solar and how many kW you will need.
  • How and where the installation will go, in some cases solar may not be worth it due to shading caused by trees and hills.
  • Reviewing you power bill, assessing how much you can save per month on average and payback period.
  • Reviewing your existing installation and determining ways to lower your bill by implementing changes to lifestyle/product changes. By lowering your overall usage of energy, it’s possible you could power your entire home with solar.

The building energy assessment will involve a visit from a Lite Energy expert, we will take into account the angle and direction available on your roof, how much space is vacant, how much energy you use in the home, any shade that might affect the solar panels performance, and more.

Ultimately, this assessment will tell you if solar power is a good fit for your home.

Lite Energy offers free assessments to home and business owners, we encourage you to make use of this service before taking the next steps.

Benefits of solar and pay backs

One of the biggest benefits of solar power is that you are using less traditional energy, which come from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas which are not eco-friendly like solar.

However, for most homeowners the real drawcard is the savings that can be made on power bills. While there are certainly costs for setting up the system, modern solar panel set-ups are estimated to pay themselves off in 10-15 years, depending on the panels and energy use within the home.

So it will take some time before your solar panel installation pays dividends, but keep in mind they have a 25 year warranty and until that point, you’re helping the planet, and have added massive value to your home should you choose to sell.

 You can do a quick energy assessment with the Government’s Gen Less website to learn more about the value you might get from solar.

Finance options for installing solar power

The good news is that the price of installing solar power has dropped dramatically in recent years, so it has become a lot more attainable for Kiwis.

The bad news is that there are currently no nationwide subsidies available for solar power installation, yet. In late 2023, Labour Government showed an appetite for encouraging solar power which is promising. Financial incentives such as direct subsidies have played a crucial role in boosting solar power installation uptake in many countries worldwide.

However, many lenders are offering incentives to homeowners. For example Kiwibank offers a Sustainable Energy Loan, where if you borrow more than $5,000 to make sustainable energy changes such as solar power, they will contribute up to $2,000 over four years for the cost of the system.

Otherwise, it may be a case of either saving up for an installation or adding the installation cost to your mortgage. Alternatively Lite Energy has Q card set up for interest free finance options should you choose this route.

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